I recently came across this report titled “The Mobile Development Report“, published by CKS on a research commissioned by Nokia for developmental use of mobile networks in emerging economies.

The report focuses on social transformations around a new technology and its adoption. The report beautifully documents lives and ways Indians in tier 2 cities and towns use mobile phones. One of the best reports, a few highlights for me are

  1. The East-West Divide: If we draw a line connecting Delhi and Chennai, the western India has seen most of the developmental efforts. East of this line still exist opportunities and possibilities. And this has largely been ignored by most of us (entrepreneurs, students, professionals, academicians etc.)
  2. Understanding of India as a country. The report gives a very deep understanding of Indians and their communication behavior. What makes this one different and special is that CKS talks about the entire India – not just metros or towns or villages.
  3. Classification of towns and villages. CKS has done a very good job in classifying towns and villages according the now famous pyramid by CK Prahalad. The report further classifies these rural citizens in terms of their purchasing power. Probably first such effort in India?
  4. Opportunities in Rural AND Urban India. Everyone is ga-ga about opportunities in rural India and largely . While reading this report, it dawned on me that even the urban and semi-urban population is more than 500 mn. This number is more than the population of US and UK combined and there is a strong case of a business flourishing here also. Agreed that urban markets are difficult to crack considering they have plethora of options and they are picky. But is too large a segment to be ignored and is waiting to be tapped.
  5. Insights from research: CKS has gone beyond regular data collection and have come up with insights such as elevation in social stature, increased credibility, ease of use of mobile phones as communication device compared to an Internet-connected PC, personal and societal welfare etc. And how does an access to a mobile communication tool helps people make their lives better.
  6. Possible Applications: in micro-commerce, making travel easier, access to information, education (one of the examples look uncannily similar to latest Idea Cellular advertisement) etc. This can be coupled with findings from Jan Chipchase (more on him later) to identify new and possibly revolutionary businesses. Simple example could be use of airtime as currency and if someone can regulate this, its a huge huge market waiting to be tapped.
  7. Case Studies: The way they have chosen their subjects, the methodology to conduct an interview, the detail in which they have gone while researching, they have captured the entire life of the subjects. With the kind of detail available, you can easily create character maps of these subjects and derive the way they live their lives and how they interact with brands.
  8. Photographs: Awesome collection of photographs that the team has taken during their study.

The report also mentions at one point Jan Chipchase, a Nokia employee whose job is to travel the world and observe and document novel ways in which people use and interact with mobile phones. This is his wonderful talk on TED on how we use our mobile phones.

Coming back to CKS report, one might argue that they covered only three districts and have extrapolated the data to come up with findings and recommendations. And that report was released in early 2007. But regardless of these reservations, this still remains one of the best research reports I have read in a long time.

Apart from the focus on mobile phones, the report is that detailed that you actually get tons of ideas (another post on this later) while reading it. Congratulations to CKS team for this awesome effort.

P.S.: The font size is way too small and there are 226 pages of information, worth its weight in gold.
P.S..: If anyone else is keen on serving the information and entertainment needs of a community and can foresee (or already has) a business in this domain, please contact me. You never know what might come out of a discussion.

Crossposted: Saurabh Garg Blog | Image Credits: manoogupta via Flickr

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